This newly-discovered planet could support life

Rachel’s and Monica’s of the world, say hello to our new planetary neighbor, Ross 128 b (get it?). Astronomers have located the new planet only 11 lightyears outside of our solar system, and it could support life. They detailed their new discovery in a November 14th writeup in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

CNN reports that Ross 128 b is similar in size to Earth and supposedly has a similar surface temperature as well, all of which indicate the potential for life. This theory is bolstered by the fact that it orbits a star every 9.9 days (basically, the planet has a sun of its very own, just like Earth).

CNN noted that other Earth-like planets discovered in recent history, like the TRAPPIST planets and Proxima b, are in the “habitable zone” in relation to their stars— meaning water or liquid can pool on the planet’s surface. The astronomers who discovered Ross 128 b aren’t yet sure if this new planet also exists in a habitable zone, but they are fairly certain it does.

Astronomers found the new planet and its sun using the European Southern Observatory’s planet-hunting instrument, the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), located at La Silla Observatory in Chile.

"To be involved in such a discovery is very rewarding, and it helps to realize that so much effort is worth it," one of the study's co-authors, Nicola Astudillo-Defru, wrote to CNN in an email. "The special properties of this system means that we are contributing our bit on the search of a Earth 2.0."

Another exciting part of this discovery is that Ross 128 b’s star seems to be a “quiet” red dwarf star. This means it isn’t lashing out at Ross 128 b with ultraviolet and x-ray radiation flares. Astronomers note that because of the star’s “quietness,” life can form more easily on the planet.

Astudillo-Defru also informed CNN that Ross 128 b will beat Proxima b as our closest exoplanet in the next 79,000 years (an exoplanet being one that is outside of our solar system). The newly-discovered planet is slowly but surely moving towards Earth, so although we may have to wait a while, we may be able to get a closer look at Ross 128 b in the future.

Astronomers will continue to look for similar planets in the vicinity in the hopes of finding signs of life. And if they do find said planets, we officially think they should name them Chandler and Joey.

Filed Under